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The Power Behind a Mask

Hockey goalies have been expressing their passions through their masks for years.

Steve Valliquette's mask features local hero Spider Man with NYC imagery. Photo: The Sportster

Goaltending in hockey is one of the most important positions in sports. As a goalie, you’re part of almost every play and all eyes are on you. All of that attention creates a lot of pressure, especially knowing that EVERYONE is watching when you make a mistake.


But on the pro side, goalies are given a special opportunity to customize their equipment. After all, “You have to look good to play good.” To most people, a mask is a disguise, affording some sense of anonymity. A goalie, on the contrary, uses a mask to define his or her individual personality. Most of the time, by looking at a hockey mask, most of the time you’ll know exactly who that goaltender is. Their masks always have a deeper meaning; life stories, childhood passions, hometown flags, and local symbols often portrayed.


Some masks, like those of Robin Lehner and Corey Hirsch depict the struggles of their lives. Lehner’s masks depict demonic looking skulls and team logos. Following his stint with the Buffalo Sabres, Lehner entered rehab for substance abuse and bipolar disorder after having a panic attack on the ice. After joining the New York Islanders, Lehner was very open about his mental health issues and, through his mask and social media, has become the poster child for mental health awareness in the NHL.


Lehner's masks feature his inner demons and #SameHere. Photo: NHL

Similarly, Hirsch also struggled through some dark, depressive episodes. He chose a dark theme for his mask that illustrated the haunted motel from Alfred Hitchcock’s movie, Psycho. He felt the Halloween theme and orange colors represented the fire he felt in his brain every day and wanted it to be a part of his uniform. Both goaltenders were able to spread a message and garner league wide support for mental health via the art of their masks.